Fracking Protesters: Our Concerns Are Being Ignored

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Environmental activist groups say a federal agency is ignoring their concerns and protests over the leasing of land for oil and gas development in the Wayne National Forest.

Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials held a third lease auction of the Wayne National Forest on Thursday, leasing another 141 acres to develop “oil and gas reserves” in Monroe County.

Two other auctions leasing out an over 1900 acres combined were held in December of 2016 and March, netting the BLM about $6.8 million in revenue total.

Local activist groups such as “Keep Wayne Wild” and the Ohio chapter of the Sierra Club organization protested in front of the Wayne National Forest’s Marietta office on Sept. 9, but many of these protesters feel their efforts are brushed aside.

“All of these auctions are going to happen until a judge or a court looks at the lawsuit,” said Roxanne Groff from the Athens County Fracking Action Network. “There’s no choice, really. As in other areas around the world, protests can go as far as interrupting the drilling process, but that can only do so much.”

Environmental activists are particularly concerned about the third auction lease because of the parcels’ proximity to the planned route of the Rover Pipeline, a pipeline that will deliver processed natural gas from fracking Utica shale to delivery points in northern Ohio and Michigan.

The Rover Pipeline had recent spills of “drilling mud” into Ohio wetlands in April, which activists are worried could happen in the Wayne National Forest.

In a formal protest petition of the September auction filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups in July, the petition asserts the BLM has not conducted an environmental impact analysis (EIA) for the cumulative impact of fracking in the Wayne National Forest and the potential effects of the nearby Rover Pipeline, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.

The Center for Biological Diversity also sued the BLM and U.S. Forest Service in May in an attempt to void the past two lease auctions under similar grounds, arguing past EIA’s have not sufficiently analyzed the negative effects of fracking to the area.

“I think what we’re seeing is shoddy environmental analyses being put forward by an agency that’s being pushed by the Trump administration to increase fossil fuel production at any cost,” Taylor McKinnon, Public Lands Campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, said.

The legal litigation for the lawsuit could take between one to two years before a decision is reached, Wendy Parks, Senior Attorney for The Center for Biological Diversity, said.

The BLM declined to comment, citing the pending lawsuit.